Is a Restraining Order a Criminal Charge?

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Is a Restraining Order a Criminal Charge

Understanding the nature of restraining orders and their classification within the legal system is crucial for individuals facing such orders or considering obtaining one. A common question that arises is whether a restraining order is considered a criminal charge. This article provides clarity on this matter, drawing from reliable legal sources.

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What is a Restraining Order?

A restraining order is a legal order issued by a court to protect a person from harm or harassment. It can include various stipulations, such as prohibiting contact or maintaining a certain distance from the protected person. Restraining orders are typically sought in cases of domestic violence, stalking, or harassment.

What is a Restraining Order

Types of Restraining Orders

Restraining orders can be either temporary or permanent. A Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) is usually granted for a short period, often up to 25 days, until a hearing is held to decide on a Permanent Restraining Order (PRO). These orders can be issued in both civil and domestic cases.

Civil vs. Criminal Restraining Orders

A key distinction to understand is between civil restraining orders and criminal protective orders. Civil restraining orders are usually requested by individuals and not by law enforcement. In contrast, criminal protective orders are typically associated with ongoing criminal proceedings and are issued as part of these proceedings.

Is a Restraining Order a Criminal Charge?

A restraining order itself is not a criminal charge. It is a preventive measure taken by the court to protect an individual from harm or harassment. However, violating a restraining order can lead to criminal charges. For example, in California, violating a restraining order can result in arrest and is punishable under the Penal Code section 273.6, potentially leading to jail time and fines.

Consequences of Violating a Restraining Order

Violating a restraining order is a serious offense and can have significant legal consequences. Depending on the jurisdiction, penalties can include fines, jail time, and a record of the violation. It’s important to adhere strictly to the terms of any restraining order to avoid these legal ramifications.


In summary, while a restraining order is not in itself a criminal charge, it carries the weight of a court order, and its violation can result in criminal charges. Individuals facing or considering a restraining order should understand these distinctions and comply with all court orders to avoid further legal complications.

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